This year Inkluded is proud to be working closely with leading French tattoo blog Color My Skin. Their writer Stéphane is kindly going to be translating some of their top tattooist interviews for you guys to read in English.
Here’s the first in an exciting series of articles, an exclusive chat with master of bio-mechanical tattoos, Markus Lenhard.
Thank you Markus for agreeing to this interview. Is there a specific moment in your career when you realised that you could push the boundaries of bio-mech?
Yes. Maybe. I think there was a time, it must have been 7 or 8 years ago, and I was not doing anything that I really wanted to do when it comes to bio-mech. I stopped doing bio-mech completely and started doing all kinds of other things, just to get my head in a better place.
I started doing Japanese, to learn how to draw properly. How to draw water, feathers, dragons, scales, wind, the elements and Japanese characters… all that. At one point, somebody wanted a bio-mech sleeve and I then felt ready! I drew it and it felt very, very different.
From that moment on, I made sure that my bio-mech had a strong foundation – good black lines and a good amount of black shading and detail created the kind of ‘nerdiness’ and science fiction idea that I like to see in my work.
Yeah, that was probably THE moment.
Your website is named “lux altera” (“other light” in latin). Why ?
It’s based on the song ‘Lux Aeterna’ from the 2000 movie Requiem for a Dream, one of my favourite movies. It also means that, in tattooing, I like to change people’s perspective on things.
If you don’t mind, let’s go back to Japanese tattooing and talk more about that.
I actually don’t know a lot about Japanese culture and tattooing. Everything I know (or think I know) is the visual side of it. I just like to look at things that make me feel good inside, things that are aesthetically pleasing. Traditional Japanese art is a very aesthetic form of artistic expression.
Bio-mech and Japanese are two styles that lend themselves very well to very big tattoos, like bodysuits. They both abide by certain common rules of aesthetics – everything has to flow and work with the body. You may not know what you’re looking at, so it has to be beautiful or at least to carry an emotion.
When I started to create Japanese art, the penny really dropped for me. I understood the mathematics and physics of nature. Everything started to make a little bit more sense – Japanese is a very good foundation to build up upon as a tattoo artist.
With bio-mech, is there a foreground and a background? How does that work?
How am I going to connect my background with my foreground? When I started bio-mech, this actually was one of the main questions for me, and it still is a big question for tattooers getting started in bio-mech, I think.
Things actually somehow need to make sense. I do not want things to be floating around, I want them to be anchored. The different elements must look as if they could exist, function and work together.
Everything flows into each other and I only use my background to make my foreground stand out better. The background is a strategic tool and becomes a stage for the foreground to shine on. It is all about contrast.
Textures are also clearly a key research area for you.
If you go out into nature you are basically surrounded by chaos. Nothing is necessarily beautiful out there but as a photographer you need to isolate a viewing angle and a frame. Nature itself offers you this composition: the bark, the mushrooms, the moss.
When I take photos, I am looking for certain colour schemes, combinations and ratios. I don’t want to find a field of mushrooms all the same size, although that could also be interesting.
I go out, take a couple of pictures, bring them home and then really start analysing. I try to find the photo that captures exactly what my eye, my brain and my heart saw at the time.
The whole thing is also about having a good reason to go out on the bike and get fresh air! Since I’ve been a little kid I’ve always had my hands in the dirt. I was always out in nature and very visually fascinated by it.
I know you use digital painting for its flexibility, but tattooing on the other hand requires perfect strokes. How do you approach those two different mediums?
I find drawing extremely frustrating. I like tattooing because I am with somebody else – it’s an intimate social interaction with another human being.
Drawing to me, even if it’s digitally, has always been really annoying. I don’t like to draw, I don’t like to paint, I don’t like to do any of those things. Drawing digitally just means I can do it quicker. It’s just a tool.
I work harder when a client is breathing down my neck. I just get more done. I have my client here for a couple of days whilst I am designing their piece – this process enables me to get to know these people really really well.
Everything that you then see in each respective piece is the character of the person that wears it. I think that’s special.
All photos are from Markus’ Instagram.